Tutorial: How to paint watercolour fish

When I started painting watercolour, I struggled the most with animals. I didn’t have the patience (or brush control!) for realistic-looking animals, but I didn’t want to make something that looked cartoonish.

After a lot of experimentation, I’ve found a method that works. Here’s how I simplify the shapes and focus on contrast to create fun, cheerful fish in just 10 minutes.

how to paint fish in watercolor

What you will need

  • Watercolour paper
  • Watercolour paints
  • Round brush (medium and small for details)
  • Water jars
  • Paper towels


  • Prussian Blue
  • Payne’s Grey

All the paints I use are from Winsor and Newton, but you don’t need these exact shades. I’m using blues, but I’d recommend sticking to one colour scheme.

Painting watercolour fish – step by step

  1. Create a really light, watery mix of your lighter shade, and paint a loose oval shape. Leave a little indent for the mouth to give your creature fishy lips!
  2. While the area is still wet, load up with a darker paint mix and use back and forth motions to create a tail fin, allowing it to touch into the main body and blend out naturally for a wet on wet effect. Use smaller strokes across the top for a fin, leaving a little white space in places for texture.
  3. Use a medium-dark shade and run your brush along the underside of the body to create a shadow. Add a smaller fin underneath.
  4. While the body is still wet, touch the tip of your brush to the paint to create little dots that look like scales. Allow it to dry.
  5. If you want more scale details, add some small, dark dots on dry. Then use your darkest shade to create a small round eye.
  6. Repeat the process with as many shapes as possible to create a whole shoal of fish.

That’s how to paint a fun collection of fish in watercolour! Want to try more painting ideas?

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